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tv   NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt  NBC  December 2, 2016 5:30pm-6:01pm PST

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loving homes. >> it's a little chilly for the dogs. >> yeah, cold out there. >> more on the forecast at 6:00. see you then. tonight, fatal encounter. a former nfl star shot to death in an apparent road rage confrontation. why police say the driver, who admits to pulling the trigger, has been set free without charges. high drama. in the trial of officer michael slager, seen on video shooting walter scott in the back, the jury tells the judge, it's deadlocked. trump's controverscalls. late word on the president-elect's phone conversations with foreign leaders, raising eyebrows around the world. hidden danger. one child nearly every month, killed by one of the top hazards so many people have inside their homes. a family sounding the alarm, hoping to save even one life. and the dancing principal. our friday "inspiring america" report. a school administrator who moves to her own beat. "nightly news" begins
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right now. from nbc news world headquarters in new york, this is "nbc nightly news" with lester holt. good evening. authorities outside new orleans tonight are defending their decision to release from custody the man who shot to death a former nfl player in an apparent case of road rage. the death of ex-nfl running back joe mcknight, who was unarmed, is generating a fair amount of outrage over early accounts of how the confrontation played out, and over the release of the shooter without charges. tonight as questions mount, investigators are cautioning against a rush to judgment. nbc's jacob rascon is on the story for us. >> but you can't keep somebody in jail that took somebody's life! >> reporter: tonight a frustrated community demanding answers. >> what do we want? >> we want justice. >> reporter: horrified that
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ronald gasser would be let go without charges after he admitted to gunning down former nfl running back joe mcknight during a road rage incident. the sheriff says there's more to the story. >> mr. gasser did not stand over mr. mcknight and fire shots into him. >> reporter: despite earlier rumors, police say mcknight got out of his suv after a heated exchange with gasser from their respective vehicles. mcknight walked up to the passenger side of gasser's sedan when gasser fired his semi- automatic handgun from inside his car. >> the three casings were located within the vehicle. >> reporter: then the futile effort to revive mcknight, as gasser waited for police, handing over his weapon, later giving a statement before being let go pending further investigation. >> the easiest thing for me would have been book 'em, dano. right? but the fact of the matter is, in trying to flesh out the details, we chose not to do that. >> reporter: mcknight was born and raised here, leading his high school team to several
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championships, star at usc, picked up by the new york jets, and later the kansas city chiefs. >> good dude. he always had a joke and he'd make you smile. just a really good guy. >> reporter: a source close to the gasser family told nbc news, we pray all will be patient and wait for the facts to come out. it was only eight months ago that another nfl player was killed during a road rage incident in new orleans. tonight many in this state mourning another hometown hero. the sheriff insisted his handling of the case has nothing to do with race, adding that the man who raised mcknight was a sheriff's deputy here once. tonight the department is also tracking down more witnesses and will work with the d.a.'s office to determine what if any charges are appropriate. lester? >> jacob rascon, thank you. now to the high drama playing out all day inside a courtroom in charleston, south carolina, where a police officer is on trial in the death of walter scott.
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officer michael slager, caught on cell phone video shooting a fleeing scott in the back. the shocking images producing angry protests at the time. today the jury came in and out of the courtroom multiple times, telling the judge they were deadlocked. we get late details from nbc's gabe gutierrez. >> reporter: tonight jurors in the murder trial of former north charleston police officer michael slager, say they are hopelessly deadlocked. a lone juror sending this judge note to the judge late today. >> i still cannot without a reasonable doubt convict the defend. at the same time, my heart does not want to have to tell the scott family that the man that killed their son, brother, and father, is innocent. >> reporter: despite the impasse, the jurors are telling the court, they want to keep deliberating. slager charged in the death of walter scott, who was shot in the back as he ran from a traffic stop last year. >> shots fired. subject is down. he grabbed my taser. >> reporter: in
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emotional testimony, slager had told the jury of 11 whites and one black man about the moments not recorded on video. after he pulled scott over for a broken taillight, scott bolted from his car, and after a foot chase, slager said scott grabbed his stun gun during a struggle. has scott broke away, slager said he was in total fear for his life. >> i fired until the threat was stopped, like i'm trained to do. >> reporter: jurors have deliberated for three days, weighing slager was not guilty, or guilty of murder or the lesser charge, manslaughter. >> one of the keys in this case is what's not on the camera. and there have been weeks of testimony about what is not on that camera. >> reporter: within the last few minutes, the jury just came back and asked the judge to return on monday morning and keep deliberating. no matter the outcome of this case, michael slager still faces federal civil rights charges. if convicted, he could
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spend life in prison. lester? >> gabe gutierrez in charleston, thank you. there's late word about president-elect trump's phone conversations with foreign leaders, some that are raising eyebrows in washington and around the world, including one that has the potential to infuriate china. nbc's peter alexander has more on this developing story. >> reporter: exactly seven weeks before his inauguration, president-elect donald trump's now raising red flags for a series of phone calls with world leaders whose relationship to the u.s. remains complicated at best. today speaking with the taiwanese president, the first contact between a president-elect, or president, and taiwan, since 1979. likely to infuriate the chinese who view taiwan as a renegade province. it follows controversial calls to the heads of pakistan, kazakhstan and the philippines, whose president recently slandered president obama's mother. >> the wrong message could be received. so he should be fully briefed by the state department before those communications. >> reporter: here at
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home, trump's team is planning a series of events similar to this rally last night, in key states that propelled him to victory. >> our victory was so great, we have the house, we have the senate and we have the presidency. >> reporter: the strategy, to harness trump's base of support, sending washington a message that he'll remain an untraditional politician. what's clear, lingering bitterness will follow trump into office. >> we did have a lot of fun fighting hillary, didn't we? >> reporter: that instigating the crowd to chant "lock her up." emotions remain raw, this shouting match between top clinton aide jennifer palmieri and trump campaign manager kellyanne conway during a post election forum last night. >> i would rather lose than win the way you guys did. >> no, you wouldn't. >> as for president-elect trump's call to the taiwanese president, a senior administration official tells me, the white house was not told about that call until after it happened. also late this evening,
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president george w. bush's former press secretary is warning, quote, china will go nuts. lester? >> peter alexander in washington, thank you. more now on that surprise announcement from the president-elect at his rally last night. james mattis is his pick for secretary of defense. a tough-talking former marine general, and now a battle is brewing over a waiving a law that as currently written bars him from running the pentagon. nbc's hans nichols explains. >> reporter: for president-elect trump, a sneak announcement. >> we are going to appoint "mad dog" mattis as our secretary of defense. >> reporter: 41 years as a marine, retired general james mattis served tours in iraq and afghanistan, earning four stars and a reputation for blunt talk. winning the adoration of his marines with battlefield bravado and lines like, be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet. like the new national security
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adviser michael flynn, mattis another general forced out by the obama administration. in his case, for his hawkish views on iran. but he's opposed to shredding the iran nuclear deal, at odds with trump. >> there's no going back, absent a real violation. >> reporter: never married, he's also known as the warrior monk, with books in his bag and weapons on his wall. >> number one, he is the ultimate, combat, war-fighting marine. second, he's also an intellectual. he's deeply read. >> reporter: but his candid talk, sometimes catching him in political crossfire. >> you go to afghanistan, you got guys that slap women around if they didn't wear a veil. guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. it was fun to shoot them. >> reporter: the law requires a seven-year wait from serving in the military before running it. already there's opposition to a waiver. >> while i deeply respect the extraordinary service of general mattis, i do not believe we should be changing the
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law for president-elect trump. >> changing it for mattis will require 60 votes in the senate, a tactical disadvantage for a decorated general. hans nichols, nbc news, washington. we learned today that the unemployment rate is at its lowest level in over nine years. the government says u.s. employers added 178,000 jobs in november, marking a record of 88 straight months of job growth. the unemployment rate fell to 4.6%. it's not all good news, however, as the drop was partially due to more people dropping out of the workforce. meaning they're no longer counted as unemployed. the death toll has risen to 13 in the wildfires in tennessee. thousands were under mandatory evacuation orders and today we were with residents as they made their emotional return to their homes to discover whether anything was left. we get more from nbc's blake mccoy. >> reporter: the panic of escape now gives way to the agony of return. >> i'm just trying to take it all in. >> reporter: carolyn
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stecker hasn't seen home since monday, unsure if it's still there, with her mobility limited by a wheelchair, she awaits word from a friend. >> darling, you're fine. >> reporter: flames charred her house, but left it standing. >> thank you, lord, i have a home to come back to. so i'm luckier than a lot. >> reporter: the toll of the gatlinburg, tennessee fire, devastating. 13 people now confirmed dead, including john and janet summers, both 61 from memphis. they were on vacation with their three sons who are recovering in a burn unit. and 75-year-old may vance who died of a heart attack. the fire now contained, has burned 27 square miles. more than a thousand structures, damaged or destroyed. flames skirted the edges of but ultimately spared dollywood theme park. it re-opened today with namesake dolly parton vowing to help those who lost everything. >> a thousand dollars a month to all those families that have lost their homes in the fires until they get back up
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on their feet. >> reporter: people like darrelle and robert hollander, whose night-time escape down a mountainside was illuminated by a terrifying orange glow. >> i didn't know of another way to get down from where we were easy. so cover your mouth and run straight through it. >> reporter: they made it out. some of their neighbors did not. blake mccoy, nbc news. in north dakota, protests over a controversial oil pipeline have reached a critical moment. demonstrators are up against a monday deadline to clear out. if they stay, they face a new challenge. temperatures plunging as wintery cold moves in. nbc's tammy leitner is at the protesters' camp north of cannon ball, north dakota. >> reporter: as the brutal north dakota winter closes in, protesters are gearing up for a long fight. despite a federal deadline to vacate camp by monday. >> we're here for the long haul, as long as we can make it. >> we have a wood-burning stove. we came prepared.
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>> reporter: for months, thousands of protesters, who call themselves water protectors, have descended on rural north dakota to protest against the dakota access pipeline. the intense standoff, resulting in hundreds of arrests. last month, water, tear gas, and rubber bullets were used to disperse protesters. >> law enforcement is not the aggressors here. we are only reacting to what protesters are doing against law enforcement. >> reporter: it's a fight over a pipeline that crosses four states, including an area of land along the standing rock sioux reservation. once complete, it would carry roughly 470,000 barrels of oil per day. proponents say the $3.8 billion pipeline will provide jobs and help the local economy. but the land is considered sacred by the standing rock sioux, and the pipeline would cross under their only water source. >> it poses a threat to our culture, our way of line, our land, our environment. >> reporter: back at
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camp, protesters face another challenge. the bitter cold will feel like just 10 degrees. >> cold weather be damned. >> as a veteran, i'm here to protect the warriors and the women and the people peacefully protesting. because their weapon is prayer. my weapon is training. >> reporter: 2,000 u.s. veterans are expected to descend on this camp this weekend. we're told they will link arms and form a human chain on the front line of the protest. lester? >> tammy leitner, thank you. still ahead, the terrible tragedy impacting the family of a college football coach. his 3-year-old daughter killed by a hidden danger in millions of american homes. also the principal inspiring her students with the three rs -- reading, writing, and rhythm.
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we're back now to tell you about a hidden home danger. tragic news in utah, where a 3-year-old girl has been killed in an accident that experts say is far too common and easily preventable. it's a tragedy that happens more often than you might think. and one posing a serious danger in homes with children all across the country. nbc's miguel almaguer explains. >> reporter: 3-year-old elsie mahe, who her family called "sweet girl," fought for her life for a week, before doctors said there was nothing else they could do.
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her father reno mahe, a former nfl running back, confirming elsie was found tangled in a mini blind at home, with cords wrapped around her neck. the accident tragic, but not uncommon. >> he was special. >> reporter: cyrus o'bryant lost his 5-year-old son gavin when he was found hanging from the cords of a roman blind. >> i kept on yelling his name. because i wanted him to hear me. so he could -- so he could come back. >> reporter: according to the consumer products safety commission, nearly one child a month is strangled to death by cords hanging from blinds. one of the top five hidden dangers inside the home. >> if this story reaches one family that didn't know about this hazard, and if it saves one life, then it's worth it. >> reporter: a known hazard for decades, the safety commission began the process to create new standards two years ago. facing pressure, the industry group now proposing all stock products be required to be cordless or have inaccessible or short cords.
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several major retailers have already stopped selling corded blinds. safety groups recommend parents use cordless blinds. for those that don't have that option, manufacturers will give you a retrofit kit like this, which can be installed in a matter of minutes. for the mahe family and the o'bryants, proposed changes in how blinds are made comes too late. but for many others, there is still time. miguel almaguer, nbc news. we'll take a break, be back in a moment with a story of snow in paradise. incredible images of wintry weather striking an unlikely place.
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in california today, a moment of silence held to mark the one-year anniversary of a terror attack in san bernardino. during a memorial at the social services center, where the attack occurred, a bell rang out for each of the 14 people killed. 22 people were also injured in the attack, carried out by a
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county health inspector and his wife, who had pledged allegiance to isis and were later killed in a shootout with police. bad news if you're planning a trip to see the sights in washington, d.c. the national park service said today the washington monument will remain closed until 2019. it's been plagued with problems since an earthquake hit the nation's capital in 2011. it will remain closed so workers can make repairs and renovate the elevator. believe it or not, the national weather service has issued a winter storm warning in hawaii. up to 30 inches of snow is in the forecast. high up in the mountains through saturday. don't worry if you're planning a vacation, we're talking about 11,000 feet up. things are still looking pretty beachy down below. if that's a word. when we come back, how a principal with all the right moves is bringing smiles to her students. the two words that got him in
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trouble at a local college and could now jeopardize his future. ===janelle/vo=== and, the cast of full house back in front of their iconic t-v home. the special occassion that triggered a reunion today. ===janelle/next close=== next. finally tonight, if you have a tween or remember being one yourself, you know that middle school can be a tough time for kids. but one principal is trying to make the day brighter by channeling her inner popstar, and she hopes other schools will follow in her dance steps. our joe fryer has more in our "inspiring america"
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report. >> reporter: the light beaming upon gale ranch middle school doesn't come from a sunrise. the real source is found in a place you might not expect. the office of principal sue goldman, who every morning lets that light shine. >> good morning. ♪ >> reporter: this is her morning routine, turning the school's crosswalk into a dance floor, giving her kids a daily sidewalk sock hop. do you have favorite dance moves? >> no, i only have one. >> reporter: which is? >> this. >> she has her own style. >> i'm not a good dancer. they think i am. it's a secret. don't tell them. >> i think she's just putting herself down. she's a great dancer. >> reporter: goldman came up with the idea in april. how did the kids react at first? >> they thought i was insane. and honestly it was only me out there dancing. ♪ >> reporter: but her relentless groove eventually became contagious.
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>> it's a lot of fun because we don't care what other people think and we just have fun. ♪ >> reporter: they've discovered this positive start carries through the entire day. >> it's a dance party, so then everyone's really excited about everything. >> reporter: impressive when you consider just how difficult these years can be. goldman herself had a hard time in middle school. when you were younger, a dancing principal might have made a little bit of a difference? >> would have made a huge difference. at least you know somebody at the top is looking out for you. ♪ >> reporter: which is why goldman hopes every principal will steal her idea. no dance lessons required. joe fryer, nbc news, san ramone, california. >> okay, admit it, you want to dance now, right? that's going to do it for us on a friday night. i'm lester holt. for all of us at nbc news, thank you for watching and goodnight. plastered all over stations and
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inside trains... they've got the bart logo, the bart look and they were plastered all over stations and inside trains. bogus artwork with a very real message. curb the hate and just ride nice. the news at 6:00 starts right now. good evening, thanks for joining us. i'm in for raj mathai. bart behavior 101 courtesy an anonymous artist who plastered those posters along the transit agency. they the words may have been profan but the message is clear, get your act together and ride
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the train peacefully. nbc bay area's elysce kirchner. some people thought, even with the bad words, that those posters were real. >> reporter: every commuter thought these posters were real because they looked so authentic. but they're very fake and they will not tolerate them. sometime during the friday morning commute official looking posters like this appeared with a clear but slightly profan message. >> racism, sexism, islamaphobia, homophobia -- oh, my gosh, have we come to that now? >> what looks like a bart symbol showed up throughout the transit system with the #bart behavior 101. >> it's good because we all need to come together anyway and

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